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Obama's New Gay/Transgender Rights Executive Order Doesn't Include Religious Liberty Protections

5:12 PM, Jul 21, 2014 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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On Monday morning, President Obama signed an executive order prohibiting organizations that receive federal contracts from making employment decisions on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. A group of religious leaders and Obama allies had called for the executive order to include a religious exemption, so that "religious organizations will not be automatically disqualified or disadvantaged in obtaining contracts because of their religious beliefs." But the president rejected their request. The order allows religious organizations permitted to prioritize the hiring of coreligionists to continue to do so, but it does not include an exemption for any group that has a federal contract.

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Elizabeth Cromwell

As Kirsten Powers wrote in a recent USA Today column, "Without an exemption in Obama's executive order, we could see many religious organizations that provide social services to the most needy losing government contracts because they act on the dictates of their faith. Century-old Catholic Charities, which serves more than 10 million Americans a year, could lose critical government funding to help people in desperate need. This disregard for the poor who are served by religious organizations is astounding." 

Obama's religious allies had merely requested that the executive order include the same modest exemption included in the Senate version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which passed the Democratic-controlled chamber in 2013 with the strong support of LGBT-rights groups. In the wake of the Hobby Lobby decision, however, some gay rights groups did an about-face and decided that they would not support ENDA if it includes a religious exemption. 

"The executive-order debate split religious-left groups and gay groups alike into opposing camps," The Atlantic's Molly Ball wrote on Sunday. "The larger fear is that such splits could bring back the bad old days when gay rights and religious rights were seen as irreconcilable—and liberals suffered politically for the image that they were alienated from religious values."

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